Asked in a manner identical to that of Plato.

What is a place?

A good place to start with any such question is listing out a bunch of things I consider places. The list will start with the ones most people will agree on, and slowly move towards ones perhaps more controversial

  • The room I'm in right now
  • The Amazon Rainforest
  • New York City
  • The Taj Mahal
  • The chair I am sitting in
  • Heaven (whatever the hell that is)
  • An anthill
  • A thought palace
  • A website (for example, we say "go to Google")
  • Hogwarts (this is so low because all previous examples, aside from heaven, had to deal with the physical world. However, Hogwarts is unambiguously fictional)
  • A water bottle (for example, we say "pour water into the bottle). This differs from Google because it is not a human that is in, on, or at the bottle, but some inanimate object.

Note 1: even if no definitive answer is given, a good discussion is extremely welcome.

Note 2: I don't know if this is an appropriate question to ask on this site. If a more appropriate place is known, please let me know. If there already exists such an answer or discussion, please let me know as well.

Note 3: If you do not agree with some items on my list, please give your own definition rather than forcing your definition to fit all of the items on my list. In all honestly, I'm not even sure about some of the later ones.

  • "A good place to start with..." Seems your list does not include this notion of place.
    – rus9384
    May 30, 2018 at 21:24
  • @rus9384 I suppose. However, I'm trying to define 'a place,' not the word 'place.' I would include it as an example, but I'm not sure I would consider everything that follows a place. An example sentence of that form would be: a good place to start with learning mathematics is book X. This sentence implies that book X is a place. However, I'm not sure I would consider books as places. I could be wrong on this one, though. Also, I understand that I am using the word a bit loosely when asking the question. However, I am only interested in what specific objects may be labelled as 'places.' May 30, 2018 at 21:27
  • Good question. Do you know phenomenology (Husserl) ? Maybe you could find a book on the net or library if you don't. Also, what did Heidegger mean by aletheia en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aletheia Perhaps we ourselves open up a "space" or place in the world as shepards of being. Anyway, for myself I have always been interested in the "place" of old schools. Francois Mauriac, novelist, for instance, never really left Grande Le Brun fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lycée_Sainte-Marie_Grand_Lebrun
    – Gordon
    May 30, 2018 at 22:44
  • 2
    Hi, welcome to Philosophy SE. Please visit our Help Center to see what questions we answer and how to ask. This question is problematic for two reasons, invitations to discussions and questions about definitions of terms are off-topic. You could make it on-topic by rephrasing into a question about philosophies of place, like Aristotle's or Heidegger's, but it would probably require saying more as to what kind of philosophy you are looking for, and I am not sure it would fit your Socratic dialog intentions.
    – Conifold
    May 30, 2018 at 23:05
  • Mauriac's novel, English title, "Maltaverne" is good. He was a genius of place, and not just setting. A book on phenomenology: Title: The way of phenomenology; criticism as a philosophical discipline Author: Zaner, Richard M. Publisher:PegasusPub date:[1970]. Zander does a good job here I think.
    – Gordon
    May 30, 2018 at 23:48

1 Answer 1


Human beings categorise and define things according to exemplars or prototypes of a category. This is called Prototype Theory.

The prototypical sense of PLACE is easy: it is a physical location. (Of course "location" could be defined in terms of "place". According to the Natural Semantic Metalanguage PLACE is actually a semantic prime - a core concept which cannot be meaningfully defined by other concepts. If the NSM scholars are correct, any such attempt to reduce the concept of PLACE will end up being circular.)

We can metaphorically extend the sense of PLACE to non-physical locations, such as internet locations, and fictional locations. But the fact that there are potentially an infinite number of domains into which the concept of PLACE could be metaphorically extended does not change how it is prototypically defined.

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